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The Childhood Years That Shaped Prime Minister Narendra Modi

16/09/2016 4:51 PM IST | Updated 17/09/2016 7:40 AM IST
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Adnan Abidi / Reuters

Excellence does not come without hard work and struggle. For Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, the struggle was more intense since he was born into extreme poverty. You need to visit the ancestral house at Vadnagar to fathom the extent of the struggle that the former "chaiwallah" waged in order to create his own destiny as the most powerful man in the world's largest democracy.

As a young child he visited Mehsana Railway Station and served tea to soldiers as a mark of his respect for them.

The third child of Damodardas Modi, young Narendra was perhaps not as burdened with family responsibilities as his elder brothers, but he nevertheless took upon himself the task of working for the family. He would get up early and open the tea stall by the Vadnagar Railway Station after which his father would come and make tea. The young boy would serve tea to the passengers of the first train that would arrive. In the afternoon, he would rush back to the tea stall from school to attend to other trains after which he would return and rejoin the class. His mother Hiraba used to work at the houses of others and this encouraged him to work even harder.

The young child would also serve tea to sadhus who stayed at the Vadnagar Railway Station, and listening to their stories broadened his view of the world. He did not compromise on studies though and excelled in school as well as college. By all accounts, the young Modi was not only ambitious but also keen to discover more meaning in his life. An early source of inspiration for him was

RSS pracharak Laxmanrao Inamdar, who visited Vadnagar when young Narendra was only seven years old. The child was deeply impressed by the intellectual might and charisma of "Vakil Saheb" (the monicker Inamdar was known by) – so much so that even on the day of Diwali he accompanied the RSS leader to all the places he visited. Vakil Saheb influenced him to become a bal swayamsevak (child volunteer of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) at the age of seven. His sense of patriotism was imbibed during these formative years.

This sense of patriotism was further strengthened as he grew up. He met soldiers going to war during the Chinese aggression of 1962. As a young child he visited Mehsana Railway Station and served tea to soldiers as a mark of his respect for them. He shone as an NCC cadet during his college days. As a young man much later, he would visit army camps and spend time with soldiers. He understood that they were the real heroes.

Once he brought a baby crocodile home, much to the alarm of his mother who asked him to drop it back in the lake.

Modiji was also brave, right from his childhood days. He would swim in a village pond that had crocodiles in it. Once he brought a baby crocodile home, much to the alarm of his mother who asked him to drop it back in the lake. On another occasion, he was hit by tail of a crocodile and even though he was hurt he was not deterred from going back to swim.

Interestingly, when he was in his youth, astrologers predicted that he would either become a recluse of do something great for the country; he would not back down if injustice was done. Not that it required an astrologer to see that the young boy had a higher purpose guiding his destiny. He was a vocal opponent of social inequality and enacted plays centred on this theme.

His father Damodardas, however, feared his son Kumar (Modi's pet name) would become a recluse. Following the tradition of the Ghanchi community to which they belonged, he arranged for his son to be married when he was just a child of six, though the union was solemnized several years later. The marriage was never consummated, however, and at the age of 17 the young man left home in search of truth, after taking permission from his family. His inspiration was Gautam Buddha about whom he had read at the library at Sarmishtha Lake.

He interacted with various sadhus only to learn, much as Swami Vivekananda had done, that his salvation would only come from working among people.

His days of wandering took him to the Himalayas, the RK Ashrams and various other pilgrimage centres. He interacted with various sadhus only to learn, much as Swami Vivekananda had done, that his salvation would only come from working among people. This period helped him build spiritual reserves that would sustain him during the various phases of his life. It is this spirituality that allows him to transcend his attachment to his family, while also allowing him to treat every Indian as his own.

When he returned from the Himalayas, one of the first things the former bal swayamsevak did was to meet his mentor Vakil Saheb. He fell at his feet and formally became an active member of the RSS. Although he was never asked to do so, he washed Vakil Saheb's clothes and cleaned his room to derive inner happiness. The guru recognized Modjiji's potential and persuaded him to pursue his higher studies and goals. His journey from that point on is a story that most Indians today know.

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